The first English explorers to reach the northeastern corner of the New World were left with a conundrum: how to explain the new land to people who had never - and probably would never - see it? John Smith wrote his extravagantly promotional A Description of New England (1616) and William Wood wrote New Englands Prospect (1634). But nothing succeeded in reaching a broad public like a picture.
Join MHS Librarian Peter Drummey in investigating the world of early New England maps. Learn how they were created, what they included and omitted, the images chosen, and the messages they conveyed. Were early maps designed to encourage emigrants, or aids to navigation? Did they chart Colonial-Native American conflict or paint an idyllic garden scene? Find out how these non-textual artifacts communicated the world of 17th-century New England.
NOTE: This meeting is a discussion, not a lecture. Come prepared to examine maps, raise questions, and make your points! No expertise required, just a willingness to engage with primary material, talk to fellow attendees, and enjoy yourself.
PETER DRUMMEY'S POINTERS FOR DISCUSSION AND MAPS TO PRINT OUT AND BRING!
Mapping New England
February 25, 2017
Although the constitution of the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) does not explicitly mention maps among the “selection of everything which can improve and promote the historical knowledge of our country” that we have collected since 1791, we hold a variety of early maps, both printed and manuscript, of New England, Massachusetts (including the District of Maine), and Massachusetts towns. At the reading group meeting, we will examine original copies of 17th-century maps and, because there is no city plan of Boston until the 1722 when the John Bonner map is printed here, we will go forward in time until that date—or to William Burgis’s 1728 map of Boston based on the Bonner plan. We also will examine 20th-century redrawings of 17th-century Boston by George Lamb and Samuel C. Clough.
Please take time to examine digital copies of some specific New England and Boston maps listed below found at the MHS and Norman Leventhal Map Center (of the Boston Public Library) websites. We will not have time—or space—to examine the originals of all the maps listed— and some are not in the MHS collection—but these copies of maps will place the originals that we examine in context. If possible, please download and bring with you printed copies of any maps that are of special interest to you. We will have copies to some maps to circulate, but you will find that if you have a question about a map, it is helpful to refer to a marked copy of it.
Please pay close attention to topographical features (real or imagined), changing local place names, and the engraved text and decoration found on the maps.
At the Massachusetts Historical Society Massachusetts Maps website:
Among the maps that are reproduced at the MHS website that we will discuss on February 25 are:
Manuscript Map of the Ten Hills (Medford, Mass.), October 1637
A Map of New England by John Foster, Being the first was ever here cut, 1677 (White Hills version)
A Map of New England by John Foster, Being the first was ever here cut 1677 (Wine Hills version)
These are woodcuts. One or the other of the two versions of the Foster map was inserted in William Hubbard’s A Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians (Boston: 1677). Please note any differences that you detect between the two versions.
Manuscript Map of Long Wharf (Boston, Mass.) by John Bonner, 1714
The Town of Boston in New England by Captain John Bonner, 1722 (i.e. 1725)
The Town of Boston in New England by Captain John Bonner, 1722 (an 1835 facsimile map by George Smith, after the map by John Bonner)
Map of the Town of Boston 1648: drawn by Samuel C. Clough, 1919.
Map of the Town of Boston 1676: drawn by Samuel C. Clough, ca. 1920.
Compare the two Clough reconstructions of 17th-century Boston with each other and the George Lamb redrawing of Boston in 1630 listed below.
There are links to these maps at the MHS Massachusetts Maps website.
At the “View the Collection” page of the Norman Leventhal Map Center (of the Boston Public Library) website:
You will be able to search for maps by author/compiler, date, or location, but many maps of colonial New England and colonial Boston are gathered together as “highlighted” web pages.
The Leventhal Map Center website also has a convenient method for downloading and/or printing copies of maps. You may find it easier to print copies of some of the MHS maps listed above (the two versions of the John Foster 1677 map of New England, for example) from the Leventhal Center website.
Please review the following maps of colonial New England:
Smith, John. New England. The most remarqueable parts thus named by the high and mighty Prince Charles; Prince of great Britaine (London: 1624) from Smith’s General historie of Virginia, New England and the summer isles (London: 1624).
This is the State 4 of what is often described as the foundational map of New England.
Smith, John. New England (The most remarqueable parts thus named by the high and mighty Prince Charles, nowe King of great Britain; London: 1635).
Again, please note any differences that you detect between the two states of the Smith map.
Janssen, Jan. Belgii Novi, Angliae Novae, et partis Virginiae novissima (Holland: 1651).
Note that Janssen [Janz] and other early map makers used figures (animals, Indians, Indian villages) from Theodore de Bry’s Grand Voyages.
Speed, John. A Map of New England and New York (London: 1675) from his atlas, A prospect of the most famous parts of the World.
Seller, John. A Mapp of New England (London: ca. 1676).
Note the location of “King Phillip Country.”
Thornton, John. A new map of New England, New York, New Iarsey, Pensilvania, Maryland and Virginia (London: 1685).
In addition, there are two New England maps in the Leventhal Center digital collection that are not in the “highlights” section described above:
Wood, William. The South part of New-England, as it is Planted this yeare, 1634 (from Wood’s New Englands Prospect; London: 1634).
Mather, Cotton. An exact mapp of New England and New York (London: 1702).
And for colonial Boston:
Bonner, John. The Town of Boston in New England by Captain John Bonner, 1722 (Boston: 1723).
Burgis, William. To His Excellency William Burnet, Esq. This plan of Boston in New England is humbly dedicated (Boston: 1728).
Compare the scale, size, and orientation of the Bonner and Burgis maps of Boston.
And a modern redrawing of Boston at the time of settlement:
Lamb, George. Plan of Boston Showing Existing Ways and Owners on December 25, 1630 (Boston: 1903).